Guest blogger Neerav Kingsland is the chief strategy officer for New Schools for New Orleans. In this post, originally published on the Title I-Derland blog, he explains the lessons education reformers can learn from Europe's transition away from communism.
Andre Shleifer, a professor of Economics at Harvard, recently wrote an excellent article: “Seven Things I Learned About Transition from Communism.” In case you don’t know Andre, some consider him to be the most cited economist in the world.
The analysis is interesting throughout—it deviates from both “progressive” and “conservative” talking points on key issues. Take five minutes and read the whole thing.
For those of us Relinquishers who see opportunity in moving public schooling from government-operated to government-regulated and non-profit run, lessons abound. For those skeptical of these types of reforms—lessons also abound. See below for the summary of Andrei’s lessons—laced with my takeaways for improving our educational system:
Lesson 1: “First, in all countries in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, economic activity shrunk at the beginning of transition, in some very sharply.”
Education Takeaway: Underperforming government institutions with decades of accumulated knowledge may outperform cohorts of start-up enterprises in their early years. Could this explain the poor results of the CREDO study?
Lesson 2: “Second, the decline was not permanent. Following these declines, recovery and rapid growth occurred nearly everywhere.”
Education Takeaway: Over time the
Everyone predicted that Justice Cynthia Kern’s ruling last January to allow the release of the value-added scores for New York City teachers—with the teachers’ names—would set off a firestorm when the names were released (which is what happened when Los Angeles did the same thing in 2010). And it did.
“Teachers will be right in feeling assaulted and compromised,” declared Merryl Tisch, chancellor of New York State’s Board of Regents, just after New York City released some 18,000 teacher evaluations to the public last week.
“The arrogance of some people to say that the parents don't have the ability to look at numbers and put them in context and to make decisions is just astounding to me,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg shot back. “This is about our kids' lives. This is not about anything else.”
It is possible that in a different era, a court might very well have concluded that releasing teachers’ names was quite insane.
That pretty much set the tone for the debate: another assault on teachers versus the public’s right to know. And it turns out that the best window on to the question is the January 11 New York State Supreme Court decision itself, a sleek nine pages in which Judge Kern said her only job was to decide whether the city education department’s decision to release the teachers’ names with the Teacher Data Reports was “arbitrary and capricious under the law.” Did it have a “rational basis”?
It is possible that in a different era, a court might very well have concluded that releasing
The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, received some well-deserved praise last week for bringing the state education department and the teachers unions together on a new teacher evaluation rubric. (See here. And here. And here and here and here and here.) As Joe Williams wrote in the Daily News:
Weeks after declaring he would be a “lobbyist for students,” Gov. Cuomo delivered his 2.75 million young clients a major victory Thursday, using the weight of his office to break through the logjam blocking a common-sense mechanism for evaluating teachers based on whether children are learning.
Though there will be much grousing about how common-sensical it is to judge teachers based on how their students do on standardized tests (40 percent of the evaluation)—“it’s a dark day when politicians impose an untested scheme on educators,” wrote Diane Ravitch—the more fascinating part of this story is the New York City subplot.
New York's new 'impartial' observors promise to add yet another layer of bureaucracy to an already bloated system.
The United Federation of Teachers, which represents Gotham’s 75,000 teachers, negotiated an additional deal (also with Cuomo’s help), to include, according to the UFT, “third-party, independent validation of teacher ratings.” Though this applies, ostensibly, only to the appeal of decisions about a teacher’s effectiveness, it introduces an interesting, if largely untried evaluation method (see Nick Kristof on New Haven)—one that promises to add yet another layer of bureaucracy to an already bloated system. As Winnie Hu of the New York Times reports,
[C]ity education officials, with the consent of union
Past presidents might not be too happy with the current state of education.
Photo by William Andrus.
This is not the time for federal intervention is what they would say. But I would imagine most of our great presidents would be somewhat appalled by the barnacled bureaucracy that now counts as our public education system. I would love to hear what they had to say about these four recent stories:
- Not to be missed. Scot Simon’s report for National Public Radio on Kansas City’s failed school system is a needed reminder about the delusional thinking of those who defend the current American public education system. K.C. is part of a long-line—think Detroit, Newark, Chicago, New Orleans—of failed city school systems. One simply cannot take the attacks on school reformers seriously when seen through the prism of reports like Simons’.
- Embracing Common Core. This is a wonderful symposium by Fordham's Ohio team about the meaning of the Common Core and how to implement it. See also Education Next’s debate on the math part of the CCCS. And, of course, always interesting, if somewhat predictable, is Jay Greene’s take: here come the commies.
want to know where we
- Stretching the School Dollar
- Common Core Watch
- Ohio Gadfly Daily
- Board's Eye View
- Choice Words
About the Editor
Peter Meyer is an adjunct fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Since 1991, Meyer has focused his attentions on education reform in the United States, an interest joined while writing a profile of education reformer E.D. Hirsch for Life. Meyer subsequently helped found a charter school, served on his local Board of Education (twice) and, for the last eight years, has been an editor at Education Next.
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